Jun 10

Thoughts About SEO and Site Design

seoSEO – Search Engine Optimization – is fine as long as it stays in its place.  What I mean by that is: content and service are King and Queen.  Many SEO specialists believe that you must change your content, menus, site tags, and much, much more to adhere to SEO keywords, in order to get your site in the top search engine results so coveted by marketers.  Honestly, that’s BS.  Why?  Because people use sites, not search engines.  A site should be designed to make friends – with real, live people.  Search engines are robots, not friends.

If you create good content; have a well-behaved, properly laid-out site; and you are filling a need or want well; people will come.  There is no substitute for having a good site with good content, except for maybe having an excellent site with excellent content!  In some places this is referred to as organic or natural SEO, like word of mouth in advertising – the best!  It takes links from other sites into yours, mentions on blogs, and trusted third-parties connecting to your site to make a search engine rank your site higher.  Creating unnatural or false details could actually cause your site to be banned from major search engines!

Now lets talk about site design and why it’s so important.  In my work I visit lots of sites on the web.  The first thing that turns me off when opening a site is poor design – pop-ups and things that interrupt my reading, like those sections of the page, usually found at the top, which expand and compress.  They make the content move when I’m trying to read it, and that’s a major pain in the butt!   Why are you making your info a moving target?  How is that gimmicky pop-in/out helping serve your visitors?  People don’t like moving targets unless they are shooting at them!

The next thing that bothers me is how busy some pages are.  How many links do you need to display?  Why are there 6 menus?  Even though I use Amazon.com, I think their page layout is terrible!  “Too many options” is as bad as “not enough”.  Maybe worse.  They are just too busy and there is TOO MUCH INFORMATION – which leads to INFORMATION OVERLOAD!!!!

Third pet peeve: just plain bad organization.  Let’s face it – one important feature of a link is that you can organize them in multiple ways.  Think of a cross-reference.  For example, given the proper index, you can look up people by first name, last name, telephone number, address, etc.  With HTML, you can create links to pages, searches, and other links that take advantage of this multiple link capability.  You can have multiple links produce (or take you to) the same results.  Another example: looking for a product.  I might call it and search for a “lawn chair”, while someone else might call it “deck seating”.  Now in this respect, localized search optimization and expansion of search terms would be a major benefit.  SEO might enhance this, as well, but it will probably not help your site come up higher in search results.

Do you think I’m going to recommend those kinds of terrible sites to friends?  Do you think I’m going to mention those sites in any blogging I do?  Will I link to them from my pages?  Would you?  NO!  No linking means lower search result placement.  Remember, your web site is trying to attract and retain users, give them what they want – which in most cases is information, and MAKE AND KEEP FRIENDS!  The more friends you have, with more linking and web presence, the higher your site will be in the search engine results.  There is no short cut for this!  It helps to be organized and at least somewhat logical from the users’ perspective.  And don’t forget easy-to-use!  To visitors, little things count.  For example, if your target audience is over 50, consider using larger fonts.  It makes the content easier to read for older eyes.  I know when I come across a site that has ultra-tiny text. I usually move on to the next one in the list.  These little things don’t come across in the SEO world, but they make a big difference in visitor numbers and retention!

You want some great tips about how to making your site better?  See Google’s excellent suggestions here:  https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/40349?hl=en  Note that the first item is “Give visitors the information they’re looking for”.  Even though these are presented as ways to get your site “Google-friendly”, they are perfect suggestions for being people-friendly, too!

And next time we’ll talk about a super-set of SEO, ORM – Online Reputation Management.  This is, in my opinion, much more important and more far-reaching than the over-used term SEO.

Jun 04

Latest Project: LTSP

ltsplogoWhat is LTSP?

LTSP stands for the Linux Terminal Server Project.  This is a selection of free, open-source software that runs on the free Linux operating system.  LTSP runs on a central server and allows the use of inexpensive, and often older PCs, to be used as workstations.  The workstations boot from and run software from the LTSP server.  You don’t even need hard drives on the terminal machines, and they can be older systems, leveraging and extending the life of your previous hardware investment.

Why LTSP?

Small businesses often do not have the money to maintain the licensing costs of commercial software.  For example, a modest network of 10 machines with a server using Microsoft operating systems can easily reach $10,000.  Even the online cloud systems can cost $10k/yr.  LTSP and open-source software can cost $0.  This is significant savings for small businesses and non-profits.

I’ve got a couple development systems running LTSP that are used as a base for setting up actual installations.  LTSP can run on older, inexpensive systems and doesn’t require too much processing power.  It can serve out Linux or other OS (even Windows) and be centrally managed and controlled.  It’s a great alternative!  And now with Microsoft setting minimum license counts for some of their software, it is the only reasonably-priced alternative for small business.

I’d be happy to discuss your needs and see if LTSP will work for you.  Contact me for more info.

May 04

Windows XP End-of-Life

windowsxp1You may or may not know that Microsoft has ended support for the Windows XP operating system as of April 8, 2014.  This means Microsoft will no longer support the OS with updates or security patches, etc.  While this doesn’t mean you  have to stop using it, you should take some precautions as to HOW you use it.

Since there will be no more security patches, you should stop using XP on the Internet.  No doubt hackers will still be targeting the OS and its browsers to try to infect or take advantage of the lack of support and security.  Therefore, unless there are compelling reasons NOT to upgrade to at least Windows 7 (such as specific software which will not properly run in the Windows 7 XP compatibility mode – which should be very few packages – or hardware that isn’t supported on the newer OS’), I recommend you upgrade.   Perhaps jump right to Windows 8, depending upon your software needs.  But at any rate, shut off and uninstall any software that uses the Internet, or block Internet access to/from your XP machine(s).  This will help prevent possible future malware and infections.  And while you’re at it, now is a good time to back up your data.  Burn some CDs/DVDs of all your pictures, critical documents, etc.

I know backing up and  upgrading isn’t the most favorite past-time of most computer users.  Sometimes older hardware is no longer supported, such as my older USB webcam, which is now relegated to the hardware recycle bin.  And often a new OS brings with it the need to upgrade other software, as well.  That’s why I’m here to help.

There are very good alternatives to Microsoft software, however.  Some packages are even free, such as Open Office, a decent replacement for Microsoft Office.  There are even systems that can use your older hardware for the foreseeable future.  (check out my post about LTSP)  Upgrading doesn’t have to be a chore.  And as always, if you need help, contact me here!